Micro-Cheating: Exploring the Ambiguous Territory in Contemporary Relationships

Tushar Unadkat
6 min readAug 19, 2023

Micro-cheating, a form of emotional infidelity in a relationship, is a relatively new concept in romantic relationships. It is a subtle and sneaky way of showing affection or attention to someone other than one’s partner.

These manners include anything from seemingly insignificant actions that may breach the limits of a relationship and occur outside of a committed relationship to engaging in flirty conversations. However, micro-cheating has become increasingly popular recently and has sparked much debate among relationship experts and the public.

These actions can include flirtatious text messages, secret online chats, or even sharing intimate moments with someone other than one’s partner. While they may seem harmless on their own, these actions can be detrimental to the trust and security of a relationship.

One of the reasons that micro-cheating has become so debatable is that it can be challenging to define. For example, some consider things like looking up an ex-partner on social media or sharing personal details with a co-worker to be micro-cheating. In contrast, others might view these actions as harmless. However, most agree that micro-cheating can harm a relationship if not addressed.

One of the primary concerns with micro-cheating is that it can erode trust in a relationship. Hiding your online communication with someone, among other small acts of deception, can damage the foundation of trust necessary for a healthy and happy relationship. Furthermore, micro-cheating can be a slippery slope. Engaging in minor, seemingly harmless conduct can make it easier to justify more significant acts of infidelity in the future.

Another issue with micro-cheating is that it can be challenging to detect. Unlike physical infidelity, which often involves apparent signs such as lipstick on a collar or strange middle-of-the-night phone calls, micro-cheating is often subtle and can go unnoticed for a long time. Such subtle acts can lead to feelings of suspicion and jealousy, which can further damage the relationship.

Micro-cheating is a complex and controversial issue in modern relationships. While some people argue that it is a normal part of human performance, others view it as a breach of trust that can damage the foundation of a relationship. Ultimately, the key to navigating this issue is openness, truthfulness, and a willingness to respect each other’s values.

Several types of actions define micro-cheating. One type of micro-cheating is emotional infidelity which involves sharing intimate details and emotional support with someone other than one’s partner. It can also include forming deep emotional connections with others that threaten the emotional security of the relationship. Another type of micro-cheating is physical infidelity which involves physical interactions with others inappropriate for a committed relationship. Such interactions include holding hands, kissing, or immersing sexually with someone other than one’s partner.

Micro-cheating can also include less apparent actions such as secretly liking someone’s posts on social media, keeping secrets from one’s partner, or even fantasizing about someone else. These manners may seem small on their own, but combined, they can damage a relationship’s trust and security.

In some cultures, the bromance sits on edge and questions whether male bonding passes a certain threshold in micro-cheating.

micro cheating holding hands bromance

Whether male bonding, including handholding, crosses the threshold into micro-cheating depends on the agreed-upon boundaries within a specific relationship. For some couples, engaging in physical intimacy, even non-sexual, with someone outside the relationship might be considered a breach of trust. In such cases, handholding between men could be micro-cheating.

However, it is essential to note that societal norms and cultural contexts play a significant role in interpreting behaviors. In some cultures or communities, handholding between men may be a typical expression of friendship or camaraderie without any sexual connotation or intent to cheat on a partner. Therefore, it is crucial to consider the cultural and individual context when discussing boundaries and infidelity within a relationship.

Male bonding is a dense and multifaceted phenomenon deeply rooted in social, cultural, and historical contexts. It is essential to note that male bonding is a universal phenomenon in many cultures worldwide.

However, male bonding takes on a particular significance in South Asia due to the region’s cultural and historical background. For centuries, South Asian societies have been patriarchal, with men occupying positions of power and authority in both the family and the wider community. As a result, male bonding has been instrumental in shaping the cultural and social dynamics of the region.

One of the key features of South Asian male bonding is its emphasis on loyalty and solidarity. South Asian men form strong bonds with each other based on shared experiences, values, and goals. Sports, religious rituals, and political activism often forge these bonds. In many cases, South Asian men form exclusive all-male groups or brotherhoods characterized by camaraderie and mutual support.

Also, sexual repression within specific social, cultural, or personal inhibition of sexual desires or behaviors can lead to cheating or micro-cheating. It can manifest in various ways, including restrictions on sexual expression, conservative attitudes toward sexuality, and taboos surrounding certain sexual activities. The extent of sexual repression can vary significantly across different societies and cultural groups. In some cultures or communities, physical expressions of intimacy between individuals of the same sex may be more acceptable or even considered normal. These norms and behaviors are influenced by cultural, historical, and religious factors, among others.

Labeling such behavior as “micro-cheating” would depend on the context and the agreed-upon boundaries within a relationship. Micro-cheating typically refers to engaging in small acts of emotional or physical intimacy outside of a committed relationship, which may be seen as a breach of trust by one or both partners. However, the definition of micro-cheating can vary between individuals and couples, and what may be considered micro-cheating in one relationship may not be viewed the same way in another.

Another important aspect of South Asian male bonding is its connection to masculinity and manhood. South Asian societies intricately link masculinity with notions of strength, honor, and respect, and men reinforce their sense of masculinity and assert their dominance over others through male bonding. South Asian men often drink, smoke, and gamble to demonstrate masculinity and toughness.

Despite its many positive aspects, male bonding can also have negative consequences. In some cases, male bonding can lead to exclusionary and discriminatory performance toward women and members of other marginalized groups. For example, all-male groups may reinforce traditional gender roles and perpetuate stereotypes about women as inferior and subordinate. Therefore, it is vital for South Asian men to be aware of these issues and to strive towards more inclusive and equitable forms of male bonding.

Emotional bonding between individuals, regardless of gender, is a natural aspect of human relationships. It is usual for people to form close emotional connections with friends or family members, including those of the same gender, and to confide in them about personal matters.

However, if a man deliberately withholds emotional intimacy from his wife or engages in secret conversations or activities with his male friend that he knows would hurt his wife if she found out, this could be considered a form of emotional infidelity.

Despite these concerns, some argue that micro-cheating is a normal part of modern relationships. They say that social media and other forms of technology have made it easier than ever to connect with people outside of a committed relationship and that it is natural for people to seek attention and validation from others. However, even those who believe that micro-cheating is customary acknowledge that it can be harmful if it crosses certain margins or causes one partner to feel uncomfortable.

Whether micro-cheating is acceptable in a relationship comes from individual values and limitations. For example, some people may be comfortable with their partners engaging in flirtatious conversations with others. In contrast, others may feel that even liking a post on social media is a breach of trust. The key is for both partners to communicate openly about acceptable conduct and work together to establish expectations.

It is important to note that every relationship is unique, and what constitutes “cheating” or “micro-cheating” may vary from person to person. Communication and mutual understanding between partners are vital to establishing acceptable actions within their relationship’s boundaries.

In conclusion, the impact of micro-cheating on relationships can be devastating. It can lead to a communication gap and a meltdown of trust, and ultimately, the relationship ends. When one partner engages in micro-cheating, it can cause the other partner to feel insecure and question the validity of the relationship. It can also lead to feelings of betrayal and emotional pain. Therefore, couples need to communicate openly and honestly about their boundaries and expectations to avoid the damaging effects of micro-cheating.



Tushar Unadkat

Internationally celebrated, award-winning media personality, Creative Director of MUKTA Advertising Canada and Founder, Executive Director of Nouveau iDEA.